Nets guard Kyrie Irving, addressing the media for the first time in two months, said on Saturday that he had taken a cortisone shot in an attempt to avoid surgery on an ailing shoulder that has kept him out of games since Nov. 14. He did not give a concrete timetable for his return but said that he was “doing a lot better.”
“It just sucks, man,” Irving said. “It really is disheartening.”
The 27-year-old point guard, who has missed the Nets’ last 23 games including Saturday’s, said that he has felt pain when lifting his right shoulder during jump shots and that he had also been dealing with bursitis, a condition that causes joint pain. Irving said he began feeling pain in his right shoulder after a Nov. 4 game against the New Orleans Pelicans, in which he scored 39 points. The pain became progressively worse afterward. If the cortisone shot does not work, Irving raised the possibility of arthroscopic surgery.
“It’s very unique,” Irving said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever had such a significant feeling in my shoulder where I’m going up to shoot jump shots and I can’t really lift my shoulder.”
Irving, one of the Nets’ marquee free-agent acquisitions over the summer, has played only 11 games for the Nets this season, but he had been dominant. He was averaging 28.5 points and 7.2 assists, both on pace for career highs. Speculation that Irving’s injury was more serious than initially thought had been rising for weeks, especially since the team has not provided many details about it.
But the team has held on in Irving’s absence, winning 12 of 22 games heading into Saturday night’s matchup with the Toronto Raptors. Joining the Nets for the first time since Nov. 10 was Caris LeVert, the talented young swingman who went down with a thumb injury around the same time as Irving. The Nets entered Saturday’s game against the Raptors seventh in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Durant, Irving’s close friend who came to the team from the Golden State Warriors in the off-season, is expected to miss the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon.